The presence of big man Nenad Krstic is beginning to pay off in a big way for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In just his fifth game since being signed away from a Russian league, Krstic had 14 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday night in helping the Thunder beat the Utah Jazz 114-93. Nine of his rebounds came at the defensive end as Oklahoma City outrebounded the Jazz 48-26.
“I’m feeling better and better stepping on the court,” said the 7-footer from Serbia. “When you play tough defense and they miss shots, you have a chance to get rebounds.”
Jeff Green scored 23 points, Russell Westbrook added 22 and Kevin Durant had 21 for the Thunder, which won for just the seventh time this season but the fourth time in the past eight games.
“We’re definitely playing a little better,” said Nick Collison, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. “There’s a fine line in the NBA between winning and losing, and confidence is a big key. We’re starting to get some.”
Deron Williams scored 25 points for the Jazz, which had a four-game winning streak ended. All of those came at home; this was the team’s fifth straight loss on the road. Kyle Korver had 14 points, but just two in the second half.
One of the best shooting teams in the league, Utah made just 10 of 24 shots in the third quarter when the Thunder went on a 22-7 run to take control and wound up scoring 36 points, its second-best quarter of the season.
We had four good games at home where we have energy. We were unselfish, we made the plays,” Williams said. “But we get on the road and I don’t know, we feel like we can’t win. I don’t know what it is.
“They outhustled us, they outrebounded us. We just didn’t play tough at all.”
Westbrook scored seven points, and Durant and Green had five each during the third-quarter spurt that saw the Thunder stretch a 54-52 lead to 76-59 with 3 minutes remaining. The Jazz had only two field goals during the 6-minute stretch and were more often than not limited to one shot per possession.
Williams scored nine of his points during the quarter for Utah but didn’t get much help.
The Jazz scored the first three points of the fourth period to close the margin to 12, but a Durant jumper and a three-point play by Earl Watson started another Thunder run that pushed the lead to 20 with 8:30 remaining. The Jazz got no closer than 14 after that.
“I challenged our guys before the game to not shy away from the physicality of their game, attack it, challenge it and break through, and we did that tonight,” interim coach Scott Brooks said.
Andrei Kirilenko, coming off season-high 23 points against Indiana on Monday, was the only other Utah starter in double figures. He had 12.
The Thunder grabbed an eight-point lead in the opening minutes and stretched the advantage to 10 in the quarter before Utah scored the final five points. Korver scored nine of his points in the second quarter in helping the Jazz tie the score at 48 just before halftime, but it was all Oklahoma City after that.